Strep Throat Infection
Children normally come down with scratchy, sore throats whereby their parents put blame on colds and other viruses. Irritants such as smoke in the atmosphere can also make you feel raw.
Strep throat is completely different because it is not caused by irritants, colds, or viruses, but by bacteria. It is important for parents to be aware of whether their children or themselves have strep or another disease to get the right treatment.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection of the throat that makes it feel sore and scratchy. Strep throat is responsible for a small percentage of sore throats but it can be highly upsetting.
If it remains untreated, strep throat can lead to complications such as rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation.
Rheumatic fever, on the other hand, can lead to inflamed and painful joints, a specific type or rash, or heart valve damage. It is also associated with rheumatic heart disease that can be fatal.
Strep throat is often mistaken for colds, irritants, and other viruses because it also spreads through close contact. When sick people sneeze or cough, they release droplets into the air that hold the bacteria.
Strep throat is very common in children but it affects individuals of all ages. If you or any member of your family shows signs or symptoms of strep throat, it is important to see a doctor for timely testing and treatment.
The main sign of strep throat infection is sore throat. However, colds and other viruses can also lead to a sore throat, which means that other signs and symptoms must be observed to differentiate.
One of the ways to differentiate between strep throat and the other infections is that a virus infection will mostly cause a runny nose besides a sore throat.
Strep is also likely to cause other symptoms that include:
- Red, swollen tonsils
- A fever of 101 F or higher
- White patches in the throat
- Appetite loss
- Tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth
- Nausea, vomiting
- Body aches
Seek medical attention immediately you experience these symptoms.
Strep throat is caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pyogenes which is also termed as group A streptococcus.
Streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious as they can easily spread through airborne droplets when someone with the infection sneezes or coughs, or through shared drinks or food.
You can also get infected with strep throat from a doorknob or other surface and transfer them to your nose, eyes, or mouth. In other words, you can infect yourself by touching surfaces infected with the bacteria.
There are numerous factors that can increase the risk of strep throat infection but the main ones are:
- Time of year: Even though strep throat can occur anytime, it has a tendency of circulating in winter and early spring. In Kenya, this is a rainy period and times of extreme cold. Strep bacteria flourish wherever groups of individuals are in close contact.
- Young age: Strep throat often occurs in children because of their weak immune systems compared to the adults.
The doctor will ask you or your child symptoms experienced. The only sure way to determine strep from viruses that cause sore throat is with a test. There are two main tests your doctor will likely to carry out:
- Rapid strep test: It helps identify the case in a few minutes whereby positive results mean presence of strep throat and vice versa.
- Throat culture: The doctor will rub a swab over the tonsils and throat to be sent to the lab. If you or your child has strep throat, streptococci bacteria will grow in the swab. The results usually take two to three days to be out.
Strep throat is mainly treated using antibiotics. If you are diagnosed with strep throat, the doctor will prescribe specific antibiotics to treat the infection.
These medications inhibit the spread of bacteria and infections. Numerous types of antibiotics exist but the most effective in treating strep throat infection are amoxicillin and penicillin.
Note that you should not buy them over the counter because you must be diagnosed first to progress to treatment. You doctor must prescribe these antibiotics for you to use them.
It is always important to finish the antibiotic treatment dose to kill the infections completely. Some individuals tend to stop taking them when they feel better and their symptoms improve but that is wrong because it can easily trigger a relapse.
In addition to antibiotics, the doctor may advise you to use certain home remedies to improve the symptoms of strep throat. They include:
- Drinking cold liquids to help numb the throat
- Drinking warm liquids such as tea and lemon water
- Sucking on throat lozenges
- Turning on a cool-mist humidifier
- Taking over the counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Adding ½ teaspoon of salt in a cup of water and gargling the mixture
To prevent strep throat:
- Practice proper hand-washing hygiene
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing
- Do not share personal items such as eating utensils or drinking glasses
- Wash dishes in hot, soapy water or in a dishwasher
For more information on diagnosis and/or treatment, speak to a doctor, or get access to a hospital near you through the Uzima Health App.